Phytopathology 2014 Apr;104(4):416-21
Over the last decade, the plant disease huanglongbing (HLB) has emerged as a primary threat to citrus production worldwide. HLB is associated with infection by phloem-limited bacteria ('Candidatus Liberibacter' spp.) that are transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri. Transmission efficiency varies with vector-related aspects (e.g., developmental stage and feeding periods) but there is no information on the effects of host-pathogen interactions. Here, acquisition efficiency of 'Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus' by D. citri was evaluated in relation to temporal progression of infection and pathogen titer in citrus. We graft inoculated sweet orange trees with 'Ca. L. asiaticus'; then, at different times after inoculation, we inspected plants for HLB symptoms, measured bacterial infection levels (i.e., titer or concentration) in plants, and measured acquisition by psyllid adults that were confined on the trees. Plant infection levels increased rapidly over time, saturating at uniformly high levels (≈10(8) copy number of 16S ribosomal DNA/g of plant tissue) near 200 days after inoculation-the same time at which all infected trees first showed disease symptoms. Pathogen acquisition by vectors was positively associated with plant infection level and time since inoculation, with acquisition occurring as early as the first measurement, at 60 days after inoculation. These results suggest that there is ample potential for psyllids to acquire the pathogen from trees during the asymptomatic phase of infection. If so, this could limit the effectiveness of tree rouging as a disease management tool and would likely explain the rapid spread observed for this disease in the field.